Tuesday, April 05, 2011

going down

Footballers and bankers have much in common. Selfish, mercenary, obscenely overpaid, thoughtless regarding their effect on other people, and threatening to sulk, stamp their feet and go abroad if they don’t get what they want. When Wayne Rooney lunged his face at a TV camera and swore, he knew he was virtually untouchable and would receive little in the way of sanction.

If an ordinary person swears in public, causing alarm or distress even to only one other, he can be fined a week's pay. Rooney’s outburst is seen and heard by millions and is fined much less than half a day's pay, a punishment akin to being asked to go to his room. He must be given credit for making an apology saying "emotions were running high, and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate; it was not aimed at anyone in particular." Or at least whoever wrote it should be given credit, because it sure wasn’t the player. Even an apology is taken care of for him.

After all he was only doing what players do during a game, this time to a camera but usually to the face of a referee who makes a decision against them. Referees do nothing to stop it as they know it wouldn’t be for their own good as the sport is dictated by a powerful mafia of clubs who will make any referee who offends them an offer he can’t refuse.

Verbal abuse, play-acting, spitting, cheating, and intimidation are all part of the beautiful game, much less a sport than a distasteful industry where money, money and money are the drivng forces. The abuse extends to the spectators, where even those who want to just watch the game are cordially invited by a threatening minority to ‘stand up if you hate the scum’ and to proffer vitriolic hatred to the supporters of the opposing team because they are so impolite as to be supporters of the opposing team. How dare they ! Just because they live in, say, Blackburn, that surely doesn’t mean they are allowed to support that town’s team rather than the London club they are playing against. So f off back to where you came from. What the perennial commentator John Motson describes as “some lively banter amongst the crowd” is typically two groups of angry, hostile fans shouting obscenities at each other and arranging to meet outside the stadium afterwards for a fight to the death.

So it’s not a matter of one eminently dislikeable player doing what comes naturally to him in front of a camera. He is just a reflection of a self-centred unpleasantness that is endemic throughout the game, professional and amateur. Greater punishment of an individual, whilst more just and satisfying, would achieve very little. Stricter rules on behaviour must be consistently applied to all players by all referees, whatever the short term consequences to the clubs. Football needs a reincarnation with a new ethos based on sporting conduct and far less money flowing through it, and needs it soon.



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